Sat10252014

Schools

Los Altos School District and foundation work to close the budget gap

Los Altos School District administrators are working closely with the Los Altos Educational Foundation this week to close the $1.3 million budget gap the district faces next year.

District officials have already proposed $4.5 million in cuts to help weather the ongoing turbulent economic climate for schools.

Incoming Los Altos Educational Foundation co-president Joe Seither said the foundation’s board has authorized a grant that is at least as large as $2.35 million (the amount raised last year) and is waiting on district board approval before officially announcing which programs the grant will fund.

The foundation’s contribution represents the final piece of the school district’s budget puzzle. Last week the Los Altos Teachers Association reached an agreement with the district to absorb approximately $350,000 in permanent cuts next year and an average $430,000 over the next five years.

Teachers accepted permanent concessions in their health-benefits package. Currently, the district pays 95 percent of teachers’ coverage, with teachers paying the remaining 5 percent. The new model maintains the 95/5 model for teachers, but now requires that dependents pay 30 percent of their coverage.

In addition to the permanent concessions, teachers agreed to take two furlough days – one instructional day and one noninstructional day – saving the district another $200,000.

Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent for business services, said that if other employee groups (which have not concluded negotiations) follow the same model, the district could save up to $550,000 in the first year and an average $675,000 over the next five years.

District administrators capped their benefits three years ago, Kenyon said. The administrators currently pay 20 percent of their health benefits and are scheduled to move to a 75/25 split in January.

Kenyon said he expects the district to use money saved from employee concessions to keep students in their neighborhood schools, with several combination classes and class sizes up to 30:1.

Following is a list of cuts the district has proposed, totaling approximately $4.5 million. The foundation grant could resurrect a number of the programs.

• Restructure the Special Education, English Language Learners, Computer Specialists and Advanced Math programs.

• Eliminate science support specialists, some district office staff and maintenance and operations staff/subs.

• Eliminate the library program, music and art for fourth- through sixth-grade students and physical education specialists for first- though sixth-graders.

• Eliminate junior high school Teacher-in-Charge positions and decrease and restructure junior high psychologists’ hours.

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